Happy World Rhino Day, Zoo friends! ZooTampa is home to two rhinos species, the Southern white rhino and the Greater one-horn rhino also known as the Indian rhino.
Southern White Rhinos:
Written by: Christi Reiter
We have 6 white rhinos currently living at ZooTampa. They are the only rhino species that have broad flat lips that they use to pull grasses and low lying shrubs out of the ground. These guys are considered the lawn mowers of the African savanna and they can eat upwards of 100 pounds of food a day. Just think of our grocery bill! Rhinos have two large horns on the front of their faces which are made from keratin. This is the same material as your hair and finger nails! Due to this material, the horn can be molded and shaped however the rhino chooses. If you come visit our crash, you will see each of our rhinos has their own unique horn that they shape on objects throughout the yard such as logs, the ground, or rhino sized toys. They have their own styles - just like you and I!
Ongava is our large male who enjoys scratches from animal staff and getting muddy in wallows around the yard. We have 3 adult females, Kidogo, Fujo, and Alake, who all have different personalities but all enjoy getting snacks, attention, and new toys! Our two young rhinos, Kipenzi (3) and Amare (1) just celebrated a shared birthday on September 12th. We gave them extra special goodies and we made sure to sing happy birthday when they came out in the yard.
Greater One-Horned Rhinos:
Written by: Jenny Bell
ZooTampa is also home to two Greater One-Horned (or “Indian”) rhinoceroses, Johnny and Jamie. Greater One-Horned (GOH) rhinos are called this because they only have one horn, making them true, living unicorns! The largest of the rhino species, GOHs can reach heights of just over 6 feet tall and typically weigh between 4-6,000 lbs. While visiting, you may notice that our GOH rhinos look like they are covered in plates of armor. This thick skin provides protection for them, but they still have a lot of nerve endings and blood vessels near the surface that help them maintain a constant body temperature.
Living in primarily swamps and forested areas, Greater One-Horned rhinos have several adaptations that make surviving in this environment easier. They have semi-prehensile top lips that are pure muscle, and help them grasp leaves and fruits that grow on trees. Johnny and Jamie often use those lips to make sure they don’t drop any tasty snacks during feeding time! Greater One-Horned rhinos are also semi-aquatic and are great swimmers. You can often find Johnny enjoying his pool during the heat of the day. Our female, Jamie, prefers to “wallow” instead and take mud baths that protect her skin from bugs and the sun. Much like our fingernails after a lot of time in the water, the keratin in rhino horn softens from all that soaking. This makes it much easier for GOH rhinos to “manicure” their own horns, and they often tend to keep them much shorter than other species.
In the early twentieth century it was estimated that only 200 Greater One-Horned rhinos remained in their native habitat. Luckily, Indian and Nepalese governments and wildlife authorities banded together to increase protection of this amazing and unique animal. There are now about 3,500 GOH rhinos, making them the only species to be increasing in number! All rhino species need our protection, but the GOH rhino’s story can give us hope that positive change can happen.